OTTAWA—Upon becoming Canada’s 29th Governor General, Julie Payette made an impassioned appeal for Canadians to tackle “serious and pressing global issues like climate change, migration, nuclear proliferation, poverty and population growth.”
Striding across the front of the Senate’s red-carpeted chamber, wearing a wireless mic, Payette spoke to more than 400 invited guests and dignitaries, delivering a notes-free and at times quirky address that echoed many of the Liberal government’s favourite themes.
She hailed “diversity” as Canada’s strength, the value of science and evidence-based decision making and the need to reconcile with Indigenous peoples who she said were the original pioneers and “showed us the way.”
“It is a good thing we finally decided to listen again to their wisdom,” said the 53-year-old Payette.
Twice in the 21-minute speech, the Governor General addressed Algonquin elder Claudette Commanda along with other Indigenous leaders at her installation, in Algonquin.
“I would like to salute members of Indigenous nations present here and all of those who are listening,” she said, according to a translation provided by Rideau Hall.
“We have to achieve reconciliation for the well-being of our communities and for our children.”
Payette thanked her parents seated in the room for giving her “the greatest gift, unconditional love.” They backed her every step of the way to becoming an astronaut, she said.
Among the guests who spilled into a building across the street, Payette said there were many eminent scientists, aviators and “high flyers,” and “they would tell you we are all inextricably bound by a part of the same space-time continuum,” she said. “We’re all on-board the same planetary spaceship, but together we can move mountains.”
“With our brains and our smarts and our altruistic capability we can do a lot of good . . . to diminish the gap and inequities that are found here and elsewhere.”
Above all, Payette said, she values “teamwork, the power of dreams and absolute necessity of a support structure,” adding this is “exactly what” she’d use her mandate as Governor General to reflect.
The second Canadian woman to go into space and the first Canadian to work aboard the International Space Station, Payette spoke of her journey to the vice-regal office as an unlikely one.
She said she wasn’t expecting the prime minister’s call to become Governor General, and her 14-year-old son, Laurier, gave her “permission” to accept the appointment. (Source: The Canadian Press, The Toronto Star)